Indigenous Australians have much poorer health outcomes and higher rates of some illnesses than non-Indigenous Australians. Estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show than an Indigenous male born in 2005-2007 was likely to live to 67.2 years, about 11.5 years less than a non-Indigenous male (who could expect to live to 78.7 years). An Indigenous female born in 2005-2007 was likely to live to 72.9 years, which is almost 10 years less than a non-Indigenous woman (82.6 years). They also have higher infant mortality rates, at between 5-13 for every 1,000 births (depending on the state), compared to 4 in every 1,000 for the total population.
ABS research also shows that Indigenous Australians on average also have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and asthma.
A ground-breaking recent study has also found that they are more likely to suffer from dementia.
A three-year study titled Koori Growing Old Well Well was conducted between 2009 and 2012 across five urban and regional Indigenous communities in New South Wales. It involved 336 participants aged over 60 years. Preliminary results revealed that at 21 percent the prevalence of dementia is three times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. It also found that there is an earlier age of onset amongst Aboriginal Australians, with almost three quarters of participants with dementia being aged between 60 and 70 years, compared to other Australians where the majority of people with dementia are aged over 70 years.
The poorer overall health of Aboriginal Australians plays a role in their higher rates of dementia. Risk factors for some forms of dementia include high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and diabetes.
The lead researcher, Professor Tony Broe reported "Aboriginal people in urban areas have a high incidence of many of the risk factors that have been linked to dementia in studies around the world".
Some issues with research in this field are that some Indigenous people are reluctant to share their health issues and do not want to accept that their loved ones have dementia.
These results have prompted doctors to call for appropriate services tailored specifically for the Indigenous community. Professor Broe says the findings will be used to develop education and services for older Indigenous people with dementia and for their families.